During a recent workshop I danced barefoot and blindfolded in a dried out river bed. I’d been walking there on the days before, and I noticed a curious change under my feet. As I was blindly feeling my way along the ground, I was surprised by the unexpected softness I felt – like someone had smoothed the stones over night and for a moment that really puzzled me. Where I had carefully picked my way before I could now quite easily flow through them.
The blindfold stopped the visual distraction and dropped my whole body into listening & softening. And it struck me, how different my experience was, once my visual focus and analysis of the surface were gone… and how my body now met the ground in a receptive, instead of “estimating & controlling” sort of way. As I softened, I allowed the ground to inform me and my body responded with much more ease.
I’d come across the same principle before when mountain biking, but it was the surprising change of sensation of smoothness under my bare feet that brought my attention back to this realisation – How different life can feel when when we ease off and soften our response. When we take our focus away from where we are locked into struggle with details and tune back into our body to breathe and feel what we feel and then respond to it…
I know how the observation of too many details can hinder me finding flow and trust. Dancing blindly, I immensely enjoyed the strong presence of the stones and their amazing qualities. Small pebbles felt really playful as they bounced off my skin, the bigger ones had a comfortable weight, inviting a deeper breath into my body and creating a grounding foundation around myself as I stacked them all around me to feel into their solidity – being with the stones dropped me into a physical sense of what eternity must feel like for them. Solid trust.
(Later someone shared that) while we were dancing a fox came by to watch and peacefully groom himself, but then was chased away by a dog who’s owner came running and screaming after the dog… all the while I was with the stones, completely grounded and unfazed about what was going on at the edges of my experience.
I wish to remember and take more of this feeling of being deeply grounded with me into my life. So I took some stones with me to remind me when I need them to.
As practitioner I have a solid presence when I give Shiatsu treatments and at times I am the rock for my client and the futon is the riverbed of stones on which we breathe ourselves alive and find presence in our body. It allows us to get up with a new sense of solidity.
In TCM (Chinese Medicine) stones and autumn belong to the Metal element which also governs the lungs and skin, clear communication, judgement, boundaries and structure.
In Shiatsu, when ‘Metal’ becomes a focus, I often think of breath and boundaries and where they can help us to take in or let go, and when clear communication is needed in uncompromising moments – where we have to negotiate our position carefully and draw clear boundaries. Because the Metal element can be quite confronting and unforgiving, but it can just as easily provide stability and a solid boundary.
Navigating around stones needs careful negotiation with clarity and softness – when you move with stones you know quickly if you are in a space that welcomes your shape or not. The Metal element in Chinese Medicine forms connections through “clear communication” – no hints and guesses. But when it is quite out of balance, for instance in times of intense grief, we are often meet with a stony ‘silence’.
As a practitioner I use guided breath work and body weight that can help my clients to connect with themselves again and find a clear sense of boundary along which we gently allow sensations to resurface again, sometimes with a sudden release of long penned up tears and anger – just like the river brings fresh life force back to the Glen when returning to the riverbed after a long period of dryness.
We can learn much from nature and the elements around us. My therapeutic focus lies on helping clients re-connect with Self and to find new ways of healing and expanding our capacity for sensations. In my Shiatsu sessions it starts with the solid support of my futon…
Sat Nam and Blessings
As many people are experiencing chest infections and low energy at this time of year, our kidneys are in need of good care now and during winter. Kidney energy is our main life force according to TCM and is depleted by cold. Kidneys ask us kindly to “go with the flow” and rest when needed. This is also a good time to schedule a regular Shiatsu massage to support your energy flow and make the right nutritional choices. Please find below a wonderful article on how to keep your adrenals well nourished throughout the coming winter.
Key Foods to Build Kidney Yin Energy
By Anasuya Batliner, NC, Dipl. ABT, CST
Published in Nutrition Professionals Quarterly, 2004
“To nourish the Kidney is to become more and more connected to our own spontaneous impulses and the will to live.”
– Daverick Leggett, Recipes for Self-Healing
The key piece of nutritional wisdom is to focus on tonifying foods that moisten, along with some mildly cooling foods, and to resist a temptation to overdo cooling foods that may put out a fire that’s not as strong as it seems.
A wide and varied diet: Kidney Yin is about the deep reserves in the body including nutritional reserves. Suggest a varied diet that provides a broad array of vitamins, flavonoids, carotenes, trace elements, minerals, and amino acids. This is not the time to eat the same foods over and over again.
Water: Since Yin is about moisture, suggest ample water throughout the day. Simple hot water and fennel tea are great when you are cold or when you just had a meal.
Salty flavored foods: miso, sea salt, tamari, salted raw sauerkraut or kimchee (Korean cultured vegetables). Each of the five elements in TCM has a flavor attributed to it, and the Water flavor which governs Kidneys is salty. To support the Water element, recommend a healthy amount of salt, as too much salt will have the opposite effect. Check to make sure your client is not getting too much, and that she has replaced commercial table salt with sea salt.
Kidney shaped foods: black beans, kidney beans, most beans – Because beans are kidney shaped as well as seeds with potential for new life, these foods have long been considered especially nourishing to the Kidneys.
Blue and black foods: Blueberries, blackberries, mulberry, black beans – The colors blue and black correspond to the Water element of the Kidneys. It is possible to strengthen the Water element by eating blue/black foods.
Seafood: fish, shrimp, seaweeds – all support the Water element.
Seeds: flax, pumpkins, sunflower, black sesame – seeds relate to fertility and growth which is governed by Kidney energy.
Nuts: Walnuts, Chestnuts – Nuts are seeds. These nuts are particularly recommended for Kidney energy.
Animal Products: Pork, duck, lamb, eggs, cheese – Small amounts of animal protein can be used therapeutically here. Bob Flaws, L.Ac., author of The Tao of Healthy Eating says, “… animal foods are the most direct way to get the building blocks and constituents of this Yin essence.” Pork and duck are considered moistening. Since animal products are dense foods there are some cautions: If there is digestive impairment, the high fat content of duck may be too much. Lamb is the most warming of the meats, so if the person has a lot of hot flashes or night sweats, this may not be appropriate. Excess cheese may be too dampening for the Spleen. Too much meat, particularly without the balance of vegetables, will Stagnate the Liver and create heat. Look to the individual to decide on the ideal amount of animal products.
Bone-Marrow Broths & Soups: This will nourish Marrow governed by Kidneys. Especially beneficial for people wanting to prevent or heal osteoporosis.
Grains: Barley, Millet. These are both mildly cooling and nourishing to Yin.
Vegetables: Asparagus, Deep green leafy vegetables – Since it has diuretic properties, asparagus is especially helpful with opening the flow for those with dark, scanty urine. Deep green leafy vegetables build the Blood, and since Blood is a Yin fluid, they are highly recommended. Also moist vegetables such as cucumbers and celery are helpful.
Fruits and Melons: These are emphasized since they are moistening and mildly cooling. Too much fruit can be too cooling resulting in diarrhea, but 2-4 pieces of fruit a day should be fine.
Tonics: Spirulina, kelp, chlorella, wheatgrass – These mineral rich foods build the Blood which enhances Yin. They are also high in nucleic acids (RDA/DNA) which have been shown to reduce signs of aging.
Mineral rich herbs: Nettles, Oatstraw. Nettles is a gentle, cooling tonic that supports the Blood and Kidneys, while oatstraw strengthens the nerves.
Moistening herbs: Marshmallow, slippery elm, comfrey, aloe vera gel – these are all moistening demulcents with high mucilage content. Flax seed tea could be used here too.
Chinese Herbs: Rehmannia root – often found in the patent formula used for Kidney Yin Deficiency called “Six Flavor Tea Pills” or “